For many people, quitting smoking is extremely difficult. To help, many states run quitlines, which are phone-based counseling programs, alongside smoking cessation websites. How do these compare? Both web and phone-based programs can help you quit smoking, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The one that works better for you is simply a matter of personal preference.

Tobacco causes 12 different types of cancer, yet nearly 17 of every 100 American adults continue to smoke. Currently, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam provide quitline or telephone counseling services, while 51 of the 53 states and territories offer quit smoking web sites, many of which include self-help tools and interactive counseling. Yet, according to the research team, just 2 percent of adult smokers, at most, call quitlines each year; and though access is increasing for the web sites, most users visit them fewer than three times.

To compare the telephone and web programs, Dr. Antonio Neri of the CDC and his colleagues conducted one of the largest studies to date. The team provided standardized questionnaires to 4,086 cigarette smokers who enrolled exclusively in either quitline counseling or Internet tobacco cessation services in four states during 2011 through 2012. Then, the team examined who achieved the 30-day abstinence rate (seven months after enrollment) and which program was used.

The Good News

Seven months after enrollment, 32 percent of the quitline users had quit smoking for 30 days compared to 27 percent of the web-based users. More than a quarter of all people, no matter which program they chose, achieved their difficult goal of quitting.

Most people who used either intervention were white. Among the quitline users, three-quarters identified as non-hispanic white, 12 percent non-Hispanic black, 2 percent American Indian/Alaska Native, and 4 percent multiracial. By comparison, 86 percent of web-based users reported themselves as white, 4 percent black, less than 1 percent native, and 2 percent multiracial. Interestingly, more fans of quitline said they were single compared to fans of the internet intervention (60 percent vs 47 percent) yet fewer were employed (37 percent vs 61 percent).

Calculating the odds, the researchers say a person’s chances of quitting smoking was significantly increased by having a partner, not living with another smoker, smoking fewer cigarettes at the start of the program, and using the program more frequently.

Most of those who used either program averaged 18 to 19 cigarettes each day, though more of the quitline smokers began puffing on a cigarette within 5 minutes of waking: 47 percent vs 38 percent for web-based users. Yet, more web-based users had another smoker in their house (44 percent versus 37 percent for the quitline users).

Though Neri and his co-authors say more research is needed, the results clearly suggest either program can help you quit … as long as you use it. These programs have been set up for you with your very own tax-dollars — take advantage.

Source: Neri A, Momin B, Thompson TD, et al. Use and effectiveness of quitline versus Web-based tobacco cessation interventions among four state tobacco control programs. CANCER. 2016.